Inside the art gallery at the end of the block on South Fourth Street, an eclectic array of artwork is bathed in harsh slants of light.
Somehow both gritty and clean, lost-object art by an artist named MyDogSighs hangs across from A Common Name's stunning geodes, gleaming and winking in the light.
The two artists, the former from the United Kingdom, the latter from California, were brought to Philadelphia by an arts initiative named HAHA x Paradigm. A collaborative effort of Paradigm Gallery, owned by Jason Chen and Sara McCorriston, and Ginger Rudolph's global art publication HAHA magazine, HAHA x Paradigm is focused on bringing art to the community.
Through March 14, Paradigm will celebrate its last two years with a show featuring artists who contributed time and effort to the Philadelphia community. Once invited by HAHA x Paradigm, these artists participate in art installations, free classes, panel discussions, and scavenger hunts.
Tracy Levesque heard about the scavenger hunts during Philly Tech Week and was immediately interested, especially because it promoted street art and promised a free piece to the winners.
"I was dragging my wife and kid along, saying, 'We have to look for this!' "Levesque said.
But the whole family enjoyed HAHA x Paradigm, Levesque says. When the initiative brought MyDogSighs to Philadelphia, she participated in the 24-hour scavenger hunt, and her daughter was able to put the "final dot" on one of the artist's street paintings.
Scavenger hunts are just one way HAHA x Paradigm invites the community to experience art. Exposure to art is important for everyone, according to Rudolph, and with budget cuts in schools, it is not always accessible.
"Art shapes your life," Rudolph said. "It changes the way you view the world and your community, and I think that's really important."
Chen and McCorriston of Paradigm Gallery couldn't agree more, and that's precisely why the initiative was formed, fusing a local art gallery with a global arts magazine. Despite running a commercial gallery, McCorriston strives to feel "approachable," she said, because people who love artwork should be able to come inside Paradigm and see it.
The folks behind HAHA x Paradigm also believe that everyone can and should make art, demonstrated in the initiative's free art classes, hosted at Paradigm Gallery. The classes encompass a number of media, McCorriston says, to lessen the intimidation many feel when trying to create art.
"People are, like, 'Oh, I can't draw,' " McCorriston said. "But it's weaving class."
The program also encourages artists to leave their mark on Philadelphia. When A Common Name, a street artist also known as Paige Smith, traveled to Philadelphia for the first time, she brought her Urban Geode project. She tucks handcrafted resin pieces, often gold-hued or sparkling black, into tiny cracks of sidewalks or disused phone booths. The result is a delightful slice of magic realism Smith showed students at Philadelphia Charter High School for Architecture and Design.
"I had never worked with kids before," Smith said. "But they asked a lot of questions, and when I brought my molds and showed them how I create resin, there was this general thirst to know."
The students painted the geodes in monotones or splashed each facet with a different hue. The students created a magnificent piece, she said, which now hangs in their classroom.
MyDogSighs was also excited to leave a piece of his work behind in Philadelphia. His first step, he said, was "stumbling around" and looking for works of other artists before deciding what to paint himself.
"For me, reaching a new space and interacting with some work there is really exciting," MyDogSighs said. "I knew I was going to be painting here, but I didn't know what I was going to paint until I got there. I had to get a feel for the space."
The artist said the initiative is creating a way to draw the community in and discover new art.
Fawn Harmer, another participant in the scavenger hunts, would certainly agree.
"I think they do a really good job in showing that art is affordable and accessible for everyone," Harmer said. "It doesn't have to be this hoity-toity thing."
Without HAHA x Paradigm and its public outreach and free art classes, Harmer said the community would be missing a little cultural enrichment.
It might not be as welcoming, either, according to Laura Storck, an arts blogger and photographer who took part in numerous events at HAHA x Paradigm. She attended the 2013-2014 reunion show of artists on its opening night in January, and loved seeing pieces from all the artists HAHA x Paradigm hosted over the years.
"It's a nice way to honor everybody," Storck said. "I would like to see more, actually. Bigger pieces, maybe, but I just really want more art!"